NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 20030020925: WOBBLE: A Proposed Mission to Characterize Past and Present Water on Mars
Publication date 2002-01-01
Topics NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS), MARS EXPLORATION, MARS MISSIONS, MARS SURFACE, MARS LANDING SITES, BALLOON-BORNE INSTRUMENTS, BALLOON SOUNDING, GROUND PENETRATING RADAR, INFRARED SPECTROMETERS, RAMAN SPECTROSCOPY, METEOROLOGICAL PARAMETERS, PLANETARY GEOLOGY, GEOMORPHOLOGY, MINERAL DEPOSITS, Udrea, Bogdan, Delory, Greg, Landis, Geoffrey, Duvet, Ludovic, Choudhuri, Ahsan, Prina, Mauro, Moreels, Pierre, Bedard, Donald, Furano, Gianluca,
WOBBLE ("Water Observations from a Balloon Borne Light Explorer") is a mission concept study for a small robotic probe to explore Mars and to accomplish a scientific mission compatible with the goals of the NASA Code S enterprise. The detection of past or present water is a crucial goal for Mars exploration, representing a cross-cutting science theme relevant to past or extant life, climate history, sample return missions and eventual human exploration. The WOBBLE mission concept was developed to study evidence of water using in-situ detection methods. The features on Mars most suited to this investigation are the gullies identified by Malin and Edgett as evidence for recent, near-surface runoff of liquid water. These features are typically located on the inside face of crater rims, where the local slope angle is at or near the angle of repose. This makes the terrain difficult or impossible to access with conventional wheeled rover technology. Combined with the small size of the gullies in relation to a standard landing error ellipse, scientific investigation of these features requires a new approach to surface mobility. WOBBLE uses a low-altitude balloon-borne platform to traverse the surface from the landing site, to the investigation site, and then rise up the slope to investigate the regions of interest at close range. Of the mobility technologies available for near-term Mars exploration, only a balloon platform is capable of a well targeted, detailed sampling of the gully regions over periods of days or more. The science approach embodied in WOBBLE is two-pronged, designed to investigate both the historical evidence of liquid water utilizing high-resolution geomorphology and the characterization of mineral deposits, and present subsurface liquid water using radar sounding techniques. The WOBBLE balloon is a high-pressure hydrogen gas design, 24 meters in diameter and lifting a total payload of 130 kg, including a high-resolution camera/IR imager, Raman spectrometer, and a ground penetrating radar (GPR) sounder. The stowed balloon and payload are designed to fit within the current airbag delivery system being built for the Mars Exploration Rovers. Characterization of local meteorological conditions and wind is made over the initial sols following landing and before balloon inflation. Following balloon inflation and launch, a controlled, targeted approach toward the identified regions of interest is made in a series of several low-altitude "hops," with the balloon tethered to the ground between the hop intervals. A "snake" system is used to control the altitude to a few tens of meters above the local ground level. Enroute to the target gully, GPR soundings and Raman spectroscopy measurements study past or present water, while continued camera bearings and meteorological measurements refine the next "hop" trajectory. Once at the gully/outflow region, GPR and Raman soundings continue while the camera obtains detailed, approx. 0.5 cm images for geomorphology studies. The WOBBLE concept is applicable to Mars Scout, Mars Surveyor, or Discovery class missions.
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